STRIKE BACK 1.04 ‘Episode 4’

Scott and Stonebridge close in on Connolly after he delivers a devastating blow to Section 20. 

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Episode 4"

Writer: Frank Spotnitz

Director: Bill Eagles

Previously on "Strike Back"

In South Africa, the British Special Forces Unit, Section 20 followed Latif's (Jimi Mistry) trail to Daniel Connolly (Liam Cunningham), a former IRA terrorist who was attempting to procure weapons of mass destruction to use against the Western countries. Section 20's latest recruit, Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) had a personal interest in this case as he believed that it was linked to the missing WMDs in Iraq that led in part to his dishonorable discharge from Delta Force. Scott was visibly angered when Captain Kate Marshall (Eva Birthistle) was chosen over himself to speak with Kenneth Bratton (Alistair Petrie), the CEO of ATAT, a weapons manufacturing company. However, Bratton's family was already being held by Connolly, forcing him to deceive Kate.

While Scott took out his frustrations on his new partner, Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester), Kate realized that Bratton was lying and Connolly soon believed that Section 20 and Col. Eleanor Grant (Amanda Mealing) were targeting him directly. Scott and Stonebridge intercepted an American computer hacker hired by Connolly; which allowed Scott to take his place and meet with Neve (Orla O’Rourke), Connolly's right hand woman. Immediately suspicious of Scott, Connolly had him drugged and strapped to a bomb.

Despite the best efforts of Stonebridge to arrive in time, the bomb went off and seemingly killed Scott.

Story:

Moments later, Scott is stunned to see that he is still alive. Stonebridge falls back as Connolly and his crew come into the barn and tell Scott that the bomb was designed to explode away from his body as a last test. Connolly gives Scott a chance to punch him as payback and then gives him the hard drive from the armored car to decrypt. Back at the Section 20 base, Grant is visibly relieved that Scott survived and she shares a story with Kate about her first attempt to find Connolly in Ireland. In the past, Connolly threatened a man's family to force him to deliver a bomb in Northern Ireland, then killed the family anyway.

Outside of the barn, Stonebridge witnesses Neve pull Scott aside and initiate a sexual encounter. Meanwhile, Bratton begins burning ATAT documents at his home and he seems to reconsider his arrangement with Connolly. Elsewhere, Scott and Stonebridge meet up and exchange angry words over Scott's fling with Neve and Stonebridge's poorly hidden affair with Kate. Back at the base, Scott's near photographic memory allows him to remember a brief line of code used by the previous hacker to break into the ATAT security systems. Because Scott has no hacking skills, Maj. Oliver Sinclair (Rhashan Stone) develops a worm that will allow him to hack the system remotely and preserve Scott's cover.

Bratton contacts Kate and asks to meet with her in person ostensibly to tell her the truth about his dealings with Connolly to save his family. Grant orders Kate to bring Bratton in and Stonebridge tries to switch places with her. Kate refuses, so Stonebridge plants a tracking device on her collar. At his home, Bratton tells his associate DarIn Morgan (Robert Hobbs) of his plans. During the meeting with Kate, Connolly's men grab both Bratton and Kate, leaving a frustrated Stonebridge too far away to stop them. Back at the dive hotel, Scott attempts to bond with Neve as he needles her about her terrorist activities and hints that they will get her killed.

At the base, Stonebridge reveals that he has a tracking device on Kate; which allows Section 20 to locate both Scott and Kate when Connolly destroys Scott's phone. Morgan reveals that he betrayed Bratton to Connolly, who then casually kills Morgan but he keeps Kate alive for an unknown purpose. Inside the secret ATAT facility, Sinclair's worm is initially ineffective, causing some tense moments as Connolly and Scott get into a scuffle. It only ends when Sinclair finally gets through and hacks the security system as planned. Inside the vault, Connolly brings Bratton inside as he procures the WMD. Then he murders Bratton without revealing the fate of his family.

Outside, Neve holds Scott at gunpoint as he tries to convince her that Connolly will kill her too. Stonebridge's arrival startles one of Connolly's other men, who accidentally kills Neve in the crossfire. With only Connolly left alive, Scott and Stonebridge soon corner and disarm him. But he soon tells them about the ace up his sleeve: Kate is strapped to a bomb inside the van. And neither Scott nor Stonebridge see a way to disarm the bomb without killing her. Connolly tells them that he can disarm the device remotely if they let him go. Stonebridge does so, but Connolly reneges on his promise. As Scott drags Stonebridge away and apologizes to Kate, the bomb explodes and kills her.

Later, Latif is angered by Connolly's failure, but one of his associates assures him that they will get the WMDs they require. Elsewhere, Scott and Stonebridge track down Connolly, who admits that he didn't have anywhere to run to now that Latif wants him dead as well. Grant arrives moments later and he tells her that he wants her to end his life soldier to soldier. She tells Connolly that he was never a soldier before shooting him in the head and killing him. With their vengeance complete, Section 20 withdraws.

Breakdown:

Every action series needs real stakes and it has to be shown that the heroes can be hurt or killed. With the death of Kate Marshall, "Strike Back" demonstrated that it won't shy away from killing main characters and it gave the season a much needed boost that elevated the entire story to a different level.

John Porter's demise in the first episode may have held more resonance for the fans who watched the previous incarnation of "Strike Back" on Sky, but Kate was a legitimate third or fourth lead on this series. More impressively, her death was even foreshadowed in the episode when she heard the story about Connolly's reputation for breaking his promises and killing his hostages anyway. I didn't really care for Kate's affair with Stonebridge, but it made for some powerful moments between them at the end. She asked if he loved her and he couldn't answer her. So, she ordered him away and faced her death as bravely as she could.

Of the two leads, Stonebridge has seemed flat in comparison to Scott. However, this could be just the thing that Philip Winchester needed to give Stonebridge more of an edge going forward. He may not have loved Kate the way that she wanted him to, but he was clearly affected by her demise and he won't be getting over her any time soon. Even Scott had a moment of emotional resonance when he mourned for Neve. He may be a shameless womanizer, but Scott really did seem to care for Neve in a strange way despite her unwavering loyalty to Connolly.

Once again, Liam Cunningham stole this episode with his portrayal of Connolly. He was such a great villain that I was surprised that he was killed off by the end. There could have been some added drama down the line as Section 20 hunted down both Connolly and Latif. Because their revenge was gained so quickly, it didn't have much of a cathartic release for the audience or for Section 20.

If "Strike Back" gets a second season on Cinemax, then Sullivan Stapleton's ass should probably get second billing. Scott's continuous sexcapades are beginning to become repetitive, but it did lead to a sublimely hilarious moment when Stonebride saw his encounter with Neve and reported back to base with "I think he'll pull through." I also loved Scott's "Did you learn anything?" line after Stonebridge told him what he witnessed.

Although I still feel that the characters need more depth, "Strike Back" has quickly become the best action series on television with well-choreographed and directed sequences and by showing the consequences of violence. On this show, even the heroes can bleed.

Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.